Derek Jeter recently entered the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020 as one of the game’s elite shortstops. Coincidentally, not far from where Jeter captained the New York Yankees to many post-season championships, are the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey where the origins of baseball in America was furthered by several New Yorkers including the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club (KBBC) and the inventor of the shortstop (the first man to play the position for the KBBC), a Harvard-educated physician from New Hampshire named Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams, M.D.
According to numerous reputable baseball historians, the creation of the shortstop position by Adams in 1849 – primarily to relay a lighter-weighted, hand-sewn ball thrown from the outfielder – was one of several pioneering innovations he contributed to the development of the sport long before it became our national pastime. Adams also made the baseballs by hand and supervised early manufacturing of the bats. Although the concept of the game as an adult endeavor (not merely a child’s game) was in its infancy, he insisted that players attend regularly and believed strongly that the game could be developed into a popular sport. In that sense, some opine that he may have “saved baseball” in the fledgling days of the KBBC.
Adams influence on the early game continued. In 1857, during a special convention to standardize the rules for the thirteen clubs in New York City and Brooklyn, Adams drafted the “Laws of Baseball.” The following year, Adams was elected chairman of the Rules and Regulations Committee for the newly established National Association of Base Ball Players – a post he held while strongly advocating for the “fly game” until his retirement from the Knickerbockers in 1862. The “Laws of Baseball” were written by Adams in pencil on three separate papers and are referred to by MLB Historian John Thorn as “baseball’s Magna Carta.” They sold for $3.26 million in Spring 2016, still a record for a baseball related document and were later displayed at the Library of Congress as the feature attraction in the “Baseball Americana” exhibit. Thorn recently posted on his MLB Our Game blog, regarding Adams’ importance to baseball history: “He is baseball’s most important figure not in the Hall of Fame…With the recent discovery of his “Laws of Base Ball” we have tangible primary evidence of his genius. More than anyone else, he created our game of nine innings, nine men, and ninety-foot base paths.” 5 Inventors – July 26, 2021)
Unfortunately for Adams, the reveal of these papers happened just a few months too late. Although he was the top-vote getter in the Pre-Integration Era Committee vote in 2015, Adams fell two votes shy of being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2016. From the “Laws” document, Adams can be credited with the fundamental rules of nine inning games (prior to 1857, the game ended with the first team to score 21 runs) and nine players per side. Equally valuable was his decision to establish ninety feet between bases, whereas prior to then they were measured in paces.
Doc’s biggest advocate for the Hall of Fame was his great-granddaughter Marjorie Adams, who passed away in July (See Marjorie Adams, Who Went to Bat for a Baseball Pioneer, Dies at 72, NY Times 7/20/21). Marjorie made thousands of friends through her involvement in SABR and the “vintage” baseball community – a cadre of men and women who display baseball throughout the country as it was played in the nineteenth century. Marjorie lit the fire that has enabled us to carry the torch in her absence. Therefore, we of the following thirty-five nineteenth century baseball clubs from nine states in the Northeast, support Doc Adams enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in recognition of the contributions of this pioneer of early baseball in America.
|Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia (PA)||Liberty Base Ball Club (CT)|
|Atlantic Base Ball Club (NY)||Lisbon Tunnelmen (CT)|
|Boston Union Base Ball Club (MA)||Lowell Nine (MA)|
|Bovina Dairymen Vintage Base Ball (NY)||Lynn Live Oaks (MA)|
|Brandywine Base Ball Club (PA)||Mohican Base Ball Club of Kennett Square (PA)|
|Connecticut Base Ball Club of Hartford (CT)||Monmouth Furnace (NJ)|
|Delhi Base Ball Club (NY)||Mountain Stars Base Ball Club of Addison (PA)|
|Diamond State Base Ball Club of Delaware (DE)||Mutual Base Ball Club of New York (NY)|
|Dirigo Base Ball Club (ME)||Newburyport Clamdiggers (MA)|
|Eclipse Base Ball Club of Elkton (MD)||New Hampshire Granite Vintage Base Ball (NH)|
|Eckford Base Ball Club of Brooklyn (NY)||Portsmouth Rockinghams (NH)|
|Essex Base Ball Club (MA)||Providence Grays (RI)|
|Fleischmanns Mountain Athletic Club (NY)||Rising Sun Base Ball Club (MD)|
|Flemington Neshanocks (NJ)||Thames Base Ball Club (CT)|
|Gettysburg Generals (PA)||Weathersfield Red Onion (CT)|
|Ipswich Brewers (MA)||Westfield Wheelmen Vintage Base Ball (MA)|
|Keystone Base Ball Club of Harrisburg (PA)||Woodstock Hilltoppers (CT)|
Collin “Stumpy” Miller is the Captain and President of Fleischmanns Mountain Athletic Club (M.A.C.) Vintage Base Ball and co-trustee of the Vintage Base Ball Association (VBBA). Originally founded in 1895 by yeast-making brothers Julius and Max Fleischmann, the M.A.C. continues nineteenth-century rules base ball on the same hallowed “athletic grounds” at Fleischmanns Park where base ball legends once played.